Tuesday, March 06, 2007

No Pardon for Scooter

(Cross-posted at Maryland Politics Watch.)

Scooter Libby was found guilty of lying about his role in the leak of an undercover CIA officer's name. As a friend of mine likes to say, it is the cover-up rather than the crime that always ends up getting people in trouble. The response from the Vice President's office appears to be that it is too bad and the jury was wrong. Mind you, Scooter had the best counsel money can buy and the jurors seemed to have little doubt of his guilt despite their sympathy for him. Indeed, they seemed to believe, like much of the nation, that Karl Rove and the Vice President were behind the leak of Valerie Plame's name to the media.

One can only imagine what the Vice President's response to a conviction in a Democratic Administration about leaking the name of a spy to the press would have been. My guess is that something about costing lives, undermining American national security, and aiding terrorists would have been mentioned instead of sympathy for the leaker. Of course, Cheney's support for Scooter may rest not on just loyalty but on fear of what Scooter could tell prosecutors about the Vice President's role in leaking Plame's name and then covering up the leak.

Scooter's conviction is perhaps a good time to remember that this is the Administration that inveighed against pardons at the end of the Clinton Administration. Democrats should demand insistently that no pardon be given to Scooter. At this point, a pardon would be an extension of the cover-up and a clear effort to protect the Vice President, Karl Rove, and other advisers to the Administration from further scrutiny. Of course, it would also be a natural extension of the imperial presidency in which Bush can do no wrong and anything is justified to further the Administration's interests.

Indeed, Fitzgerald's investigation would seemingly turn next to the Vice President based on what he said in his winning closing argument:
"There is a cloud over what the vice president did," Fitzgerald told jurors in the prosecution's closing arguments. "That's not something we put there. That cloud is not something you can pretend is not there."
. . .

"This is not a case about bad memory," Fitzgerald told the jury during opening statements last month ".

It was important. . . . He made time to deal with the Wilson matter day after day after day."Fitzgerald and fellow prosecutors showed notes hand-written by Cheney and Libby indicating that the vice president was deeply disturbed by Wilson's explosive accusations that the White House had used bogus intelligence to justify the war. Witnesses and evidence showed Cheney orchestrating a point-by-point response to Wilson's claims -- some of it misleading -- that the administration gave to hand-picked reporters.

A very bad day for the Bush-Cheney Administration.

5 comments:

sadie said...

That guy on the Libby jury had it right: where the hell is Karl Rove? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDaRFf7Cd6M

(Sorta brilliant, some dudes from Second City, via talkleft.com).

jeff z said...

I stumbled upon this site while following links in regard to the Kagan matter, not the Libby trial, but, since this is an academic (if informal) blog, and as a researcher myself, you may want to correct for:

1) Armitage was the first Plame leaker, not Libby.

2) Libby was not covering up a crime; if there was one (see #3), it was committed--and confessed to--by Armitage (see #1)

3) Plame did not have covert status as required, since among other things: 1) she was identified as a State Department official's wife publicly in 1999 (Who's who, among others); she was publicly identified as an employee of her CIA cover company in 2000 (on campaign donation lists). Most conclusively of all, of course, Fitzgerald did not charge anyone.

It's all a wretched and ugly business that does no one any credit, to say the least, but I would be cautious of allowing partisan feelings to incite the endorsement of activities that one would otherwise find repulsive: jailing journalists, perjury traps; FBI agents testifying wihtout notes or records; etc.

Dave S. said...

Jeff Z appears to be 1 for 3:

1) True but not relevant. If I blow a spy's cover to A the day after Jeff Z blows the same spy's cover to B, we have committed the same crime.

2) If there was no crime, then what was Libby covering up, i.e. why did he lie? Or was this just casual perjury?

3) None of these points have any impact on Plame's covert status. Does being married to a government employee automatically disqualify one for covert status? Yes, she was identified as an employee of the "cover company." Research the meaning and use of cover companies sometime and see what you can find.

Finally, Fitzgerald did not charge anyone with the leak because there was insufficient evidence to bring a solid case. Is it remotely possible that Libby committed perjury precisely for this reason, i.e. to prevent sufficient evidence from coming to light?

This is indeed a wretched and ugly business, but not in the way you meant.

QPRHigh said...

Scooter Libby lied to a grand jury, and he was duly convicted. He was not convicted, or even prosecuted, for blowing Valerie Plame's cover because he did not do that. Joe Wilson blew his wife's cover when he chose to make his clandestine trip public. Was it not logical that, after he publicly drew different conclusions than the administration about Iraqi ties to Niger, people would look into his bona fides? Scooter Libby's conviction for lying is as valid as was President Clinton's impeachment for lying. But Scooter Libby "outed" no one.

jeff z said...

Sorry I didn't check back sooner. Don't know if Dave S. (or anyone) is still reading this, but the way I meant is simply this:

1) The law is the most important thing. As qprhigh pointed out, once it was clear that no crime was committed (which is why Armitage, J Wilson, etc, were not charged, that's the end of it), there is no reason to continue the investigation, legally or morally.

2) This endless leaking, indirect attacks, press manipulation (both ways) is grotesque. If the White House wants to attack Joe Wilson, come out and do it openly. There's no reason not to--whatever else I might think of him, that's what he did (thereby negating his wife's value as a covert agent, if there was any left, or if she ever was, but that's another story.

3) "Special Prosecutors" are anathema to the entire tradition of the Constitution, or any other form of consensual government.

Regarding your points:

"1) True but not relevant. If I blow a spy's cover to A the day after Jeff Z blows the same spy's cover to B, we have committed the same crime." Okay, but it wasn't the same day; it wasn't even the same year, as Fitz non-prosecution of Armitage made clear. If you're right, though, that is if you're honest and believe what you're saying, then you're as guilty as anyone else, since you just identified Plame as covert. See you in court.

2) "If there was no crime, then what was Libby covering up, i.e. why did he lie? Or was this just casual perjury?" If there was a crime, why wasn't anybody charged? We know who it was: Armitage, if not Wilson himself, really. Contra your point #1, Once a covert agent's cover is blown, they're not covert, so there's no crime. QED

3) "None of these points have any impact on Plame's covert status. Does being married to a government employee automatically disqualify one for covert status? Yes, she was identified as an employee of the "cover company." Research the meaning and use of cover companies sometime and see what you can find." The law in question is two brief paragraphs and quite explicit. Plame was not covert, which is why, as I've repeated ad nauseum, no one was charged.

I believe in the law. The law was not broken. As far as Libby's perjury was concerned, it's undeterminable, but also irrelevant, unless a crime was committed. Otherwise, the gov't could just question people whenever they wished about anything they wanted, find a misstatement, which eveyrbody does, and throw them in jail.

I will say one more thing, dave s. Clearly your a partisn Democrat. From 1993 - 2000, out of control independent prosecutors annhilitated the Clinton adminstration on charges that would never have gone beyond preliminary stages in a normal AG office--what do you think is going to happen to a Dem administration after the precedent set in this case?